New Maryland bill restricts all cell phone use while driving

Maryland banned the use of cell phones while driving April 9 when the state legislature passed a bill declaring talking on a phone while driving officially illegal. MD will become the seventh state to ban cell phones while driving if Governor Martin O’Malley signs the bill, which will go into effect Oct. 1.

Previously, Maryland’s only law involving cell phones was the ban on texting while driving. Both the House and Senate passed the bill which would ban cell phone use completely with the hopes of making streets safer.

“It’s all about safety in the car,” Maryland House Delegate and CHS parent Brian Feldman said. “We want to encourage people to have both hands on the wheel. Many state legislatures have this [and] all states are looking at this matter.”

According to Feldman, the bill is simple and has one major rule. When driving in the car, the driver cannot have the phone on their ear or in their hands to text. Bluetooth and other earphone devices will be the only legal ways to communicate while driving.

“This was a big debate [but] it’s not really a big deal,” Feldman said. “It is only a secondary offense in Maryland.”

Since it is a secondary offense, the driver can only be issued a citation for violating the ban if the police officer had pulled over the car for another issue, such as speeding. Nobody can be charged in violation of the law solely for talking on their cell phone while driving; it must be in accordance with another offense. The consequences for talking on the phone while driving are a $40 fine and a warning.

According to Feldman, the purpose of the bill was to limit distractions.

“A large percent of accidents are because of distractions in the car,” Feldman said. “The less distracted you are, the less likelihood of an accident.”

According to an April 9 Washington Post article, the National Security Council estimated that around 28 percent of the national total of car crashes, or about 1.6 million crashes, are due to cell phone use.

“[Using a cell phone while driving] is dangerous and distracting,” senior Jenny Erickson said. “Most teens are overconfident and that leads to unsafe driving.”

Groups like Focus Driven are dedicated to spreading awareness about driving cell-free and reducing the number of crashes that happen because of cell phone use.

According to Focus Driven’s main website, 81 percent of the population has openly admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, and those who do are four times more likely to be involved in an accident.

“At [the ages] 16 to 18 there is a very high risk for accidents so anything we can do to minimize that is a good thing,” Feldman said.

Teens, however, are not the only drivers who the bill is aimed at.

“This is about older drivers too,” Feldman said. “Hopefully, even if [this bill] saves even just a few lives, it’s a good [and] useful thing.”